I was so excited to attend the Smithsonian Museum of African Art’s recent one on one discussion with Ruth E. Carter, the famed costume designer for the new Marvel film The Black Panther.
Featuring an all Black cast, the movie takes place in the fictional land of Wakanda, said to be located around eastern Africa.
Carter, who shared her journey developing the costumes, emphasized that although the place (Wakanda) is literally nonexistent, its African essences pulled from countries all across the continent, proving that “Wakanda” truly lives in all of us.
Ruth E. Carter:
“The idea was to present a new model for a vision of Afrofuturism,” Carter said during the Saturday, Feb. 10 event. “I had to make this Black Panther costume come to life. From designing the texture of the fabric all the way to lacing the entire suit with vibranium — this sacred metal only found in Wakanda. … There’s this sacred geometry when you look at the continent of Africa. There’s a triangle that’s used throughout the continent and all other types of forms. So we took a tiny triangle and we printed on the fabric. So when you get up close, and you will, you’ll see that little triangle throughout.
“That overall patterning throughout the suit —with or without the Black Panther’s helmet on — became the king’s clothes in a way, so not only is he a superhero, but he is also this African king,” she said. “And that was one of my major contributions to the film.
“That’s what’s so great about this project,” she said. “You should be able to say you’re from Wakanda, you’re part of … the Turkana tribe,” Carter said. “That’s the beauty of what this film can do for you. You should be able to pick it apart and say, ‘I’m gonna find out more about myself.”’